How this IBM Executive built her career from a non-technical background to leading a Cognitive team at IBM

 This installment of The Inspirational Executive series features Louise Skordby, Executive Partner for European Watson IoT and SCM Leader, IBM Global Business Services, Sweden.

 The Inspirational Executives series consists of interviews that profile executive IBMers to demonstrate how one may successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market. Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives to succeed in every aspect of their careers.

Louise Skordby.png
Photo Courtesy – Louise Skordby

Biography

Louise has 25 years of professional experience as Executive Partner, Service Line Leader, Project Executive, Project Manager, Management Consultant and Business Analyst. Experienced in developing consulting offerings and building strong consulting and service delivery teams within Digital Consulting, Supply Chain Management, Asset Management, Operations and Business Process Management. A management consultant by background, she is experienced in creating business value through process transformation and the application of strategic and operational IT tools.
Interview

 Can you describe your role at IBM?

 I have the privilege of leading our Watson IoT and Supply Chain Management practice which is a 600-strong group of very talented IBMers in Europe. We have deep skills in supply chain and operations, product lifecycle management and asset management into which we infuse all the possibilities of the internet of things and the cognitive agenda to help our clients be more successful. It is a very vibrant and successful practice with a strong sense of identity and pride.

In my role, I set our strategic direction and priorities, develop our offerings, ensure we are eminent in the marketplace, drive recruiting and training and, most importantly, engage with our consultants. I try to meet as many of our team as possible and I personally kick off all our training sessions as that is a very powerful and practical way to meet a lot of people during a relatively short period of time. I act as the face of our practice towards the market and the rest of IBM. Therefore it is very important to me to have as much contact as possible with our consultants and our clients.

Apart from my role as Practice Leader, which I have held since 2014, I am an Executive Partner so I sell and deliver work to clients in the Watson IoT and SCM space.  My clients are mainly in Sweden, where I am based splitting my time 50/50 between the two roles, I find that my own engagement with clients helps me to keep relevant on what topics matter most to clients, and thereby makes me a better Practice Leader. As part of my role, I also coach deal teams and meet prospective clients from around Europe. These days this is often at our Global Headquarters for Watson Internet of Things in Munich, Germany where our clients can get exposed to our best practices and assets.

 What skills and experience have you developed over your career to lead you to this position?

 I started my career in Investment Banking and then pursued a path in management consulting where I worked with both strategic and operational issues. I was brought into IBM to build up our Nordic consulting practice in the supply chain management space, so I spent my first years here applying my own skills and capabilities to help to shape IBM’s unique offerings and go to market and delivery models. As I had no background at all in IT, I had a steep learning curve but I enjoyed seeing firsthand the transformational power of IT from a business perspective. I then spent a few years in our European Business Process Management team working with solutioning of client specific service propositions. This was a great learning experience to understand our shared service center concepts and our business process automation models and to get hands-on experience of shaping and sizing big deals. My next role was to take over our asset management practice in the Nordics shortly after the acquisition of MRO Software and the Maximo solution. The practice became very successful and based on this I was asked to lead our European Growth Initiative in Asset Management. It was a natural step to take over the European Leadership of the Watson IoT and SCM Practice which also includes Internet of Things, business process management, product lifecycle management as well as our traditional asset and facilities management capabilities. I am grateful to have been able to keep a focus on my core, but at the same time to advance my career and grow my skills through roles that have allowed me to move forward and grow my scope and responsibilities.

 Outside of IBM, what are you hobbies, interests, and passions?

 I am married with two 15-year old boys and so I spend most of my free time focused on family life and our home and garden. I am originally from England although I have lived in Sweden for many years now so traveling back to England is something I enjoy and prioritize. It’s important for me to see my English relatives regularly and for my sons to experience English culture and home life as much as possible. I enjoy literature, theater and the fine arts as well as keeping up my foreign language skills when the opportunity presents itself. I enjoy hiking, cycling and appreciating the beauty of nature in different seasons and in different parts of the world.

How do you manage your work life balance?

As a working parent, getting a good work life balance is very important but at the same time, its not always easy.

Everyone has to find the mix that works for them with their personal situation, capacity, available resources and ambition level.

I aim to work as effectively and efficiently as possible to make the best use of the available time, whether it is in professional or private life. For example, I use travel time for working and do not mind too much if I use private travel time on work related topics. Just as I expect IBM to show flexibility when some personal things need to be handled during business hours, equally I am relaxed about working on IBM topics in my own time when needed. So the balance is always there but in my case it is fluid and dynamic in line with both business needs and private priorities. I am also very relaxed about the divide between the two. Many of my friends are former colleagues or business acquaintances and several of my personal friends have chosen to work for IBM. And taking a business call whilst at Parents’ Evening or School Sports Days does not constitute major failure in personal versus private planning. So there has to be a balance, but everyone has to define their own balance and make it work in their context.

 Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career?

 I would recommend anyone who wants to pursue an executive career to start by building up a strong core. Your core is your area of personal expertise which is where you will build up your personal eminence. This is your personal platform that defines your key competence.

We all need to have one area where we can really dazzle others with our point of view and subject matter expertise.

Secondly, I recommend to consider stretch roles even if they are out of your immediate comfort zone. A stretch role might be the next career move but it may also be something you volunteer to do as give back or could be an assignment to another part of the company, or even an international assignment. The most successful IBM Executives have had a broad exposure to our business in different roles and capacities and these are often the profiles that make a fast track to an Executive position.

Having a great network within and outside of IBM, being passionate about what you do, and being well known for your own particular core competence are the three building blocks for an executive career.


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One thought

  1. Very interesting read Louise. I know you always work hard and play hard, nice to read about your thoughts on this ever important topic.

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